Mini-Review | The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns cover
Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

5 cupcakes

This collection of incredibly inventive, dark, and atmospheric short stories was completely enthralling, to the point where I didn’t even mind that I had already read a few of the included tales. Where the stories draw inspiration from classic fairy tales, such as The Little Mermaid and Hansel and Gretel, it’s just that: inspiration. This collection frequently subverts the source material in unexpected ways, creating a world where true love isn’t the solution to all problems. It’s one of the rare anthologies where I loved every single story and can’t wait to give it another read.

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

5 cupcakes

Ruin and Rising picks up immediately after the events in Siege and Storm, establishing a serious tone that persists throughout the entire story. The path to Ravka’s salvation is filled with trials and tribulations, as Bardugo shows time and time again. No one is truly safe, and unpredictable plot twists provide each character with their share of suffering.

As the story progresses, Alina continues to come into her own, becoming a powerful force to be reckoned with. She’s strong, loyal, and caring, and I truly believe that she got the ending she would have wanted, given how much she had been forced to endure. It may not be the choice that I would have made, but I can respect and accept her choices.

Ruin and Rising elaborates upon the Darkling’s back story, making him an incredibly sympathetic and complex villain who is arguably my favourite character in the series. He’s ruthless, power-hungry and manipulative, yet he possess this certain charisma that is very intriguing. Although the Darkling commits countless atrocities, his loneliness and need for an equal made me pity and love him even more.

Surprisingly, Mal managed to grow on me by the end of Ruin and Rising. He finally started seeing Alina’s powers as part of who she is, and selflessly gave her his full support and unfailing loyalty. While I still don’t ship them, certain interactions made me understand why some people do.

Nikolai/Sturmhond stole the show whenever he was in a scene. From his impossibly stylish entrance to his witty and arrogant quips, he provided a bit of lightness/comic relief, and his love for Ravka shone through his every action.

One of Ruin and Rising‘s biggest strengths lies in its secondary characters. Bardugo has created a colourful cast that possesses very distinct voices and personalities – all of whom are memorable in their own right. I truly enjoyed exploring their interactions and relationships, both with Alina and with one another.

Overall, reading Ruin and Rising was very much like being on an emotional roller-coaster. And while it may not have given me the ending I wanted, I believe that Ruin and Rising was a beautiful, authentic finish to one of my favourite series.

Waiting on Wednesday (February 19)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, which has an expected publication date of June 17, 2014.

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

This is easily my most anticipated read of 2014. I absolutely adored Shadow and Bone, and somehow I enjoyed Siege and Storm even more. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage waiting until June to find out what happens with Ravka and the Darkling (but mostly the Darkling). And can I just say how gorgeous that cover is?! I need a copy on my shelf ASAP.

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below. 3

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 20, 21, 22 & 23

I stumbled across this 30 day book challenge by The Chronicles of Radiya and decided to give it a try. Hopefully it will lead to 30 consecutive days of blogging that liven up the blog a bit and give us a chance to get to know each other a little better.

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I was away in Simcoe for the Gentlemen of the Road stopover this weekend (which I’ll likely make a huge post about, even though it has nothing to do with books) and, once again, I forgot to schedule my 30 day book challenge posts. Here’s another “four bookish things to learn about Erin for the price of one post,” so I apologize in advance for how long this post may be!

Day 20: Favourite Romance Book

I don’t really read books for the romance; I read them for the plot. That being said, there are a lot of contemporary YA books that have adorable romances that make me swoon, smile, laugh, and occasionally cry.

I already mentioned this one in my day 5 post about a book that makes me happy, but I’m going to use it again anyways.

By now, I’m sure that you all know how much I dislike instalove. It may just be the more pragmatic part of me speaking, but I feel like love at first sight isn’t really love – after all, how can you fall in love with someone that you don’t really know? That’s why dating the person and getting to know them before declaring your love for one another is important, but it seems to be skipped over a lot in most books… instead, characters are just inexplicably drawn to one another because they find each other attractive.

Thankfully in Anna and the French Kiss, the relationship between Anna and Etienne starts as friendship and then grows to something more. It’s a realistic progression filled with sweet moments and complications. I fell in love with Etienne along with Anna and was completely invested in their relationship. They’re just too cute.

Day 21: Favourite Book From Your Childhood

When I was younger, I absolutely loved the Inkheart series. I desperately wanted to be like Meggie and Mo, since I’d have so much fun with my favourite book characters. I identified with them so much: they loved books as much as I did, and insisted on carrying as many as they could with them whenever they traveled. I haven’t re-read these books in years, but I sincerely hope that I’ll still enjoy them as much when I give them another read in the future.

Day 22: Favourite Villain From A Book

Ooh, this one is an easy one! I absolutely love The Darkling from The Grisha series. The Darkling is my favourite kind of villain: the morally ambiguous kind. He’s such a complex character: as evil as he may be, he has these flickers of humanity that are intriguing and make him a more sympathetic character. I’m sure that he feels like his actions are for the greater good, and he had completely convinced me that he was trying to help Ravka… right up until the tables turned and left me confused and hurt by his betrayal. I can’t wait to see why he did all of the horrible things that he did, and I’m really excited to see if he has a redemption arc in Ruin and Rising.

Day 23: A Book You Wanted To Read For A Long Time But Still Haven’t

I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Angelfall and it’s been on my to-read list for ages. My library has finally ordered in a copy — and, of course, I’m heading off to school in a week so I’ll have to put off reading it for even longer. I will get to it eventually, I promise!

Book Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My Rating: 5 cupcakes

I’m always wary about reading the middle book in a series, since so many suffer from the dreaded “second book syndrome.” We all know the symptoms: slow-moving plot, character regression, and an immense feeling of disappointment while reading. Thankfully, that was not the case with Siege and Storm, which was just as good as its predecessor.

Siege and Storm picks up almost immediately where Shadow and Bone left off, providing the reader with immediate action and many unexpected plot twiststhat will keep you on the edge of your seat. The inclusion of original fairy tales and mythology, coupled with exquisite food dishes, beautiful clothing, and vivid settings add even greater depth to the imaginative world of Ravka.

Alina is no longer the weak, naive girl that we saw in Shadow and Bone; she’s truly coming into her own, though the journey is decidedly bittersweet. Alina begins to hone her strength and assert herself in anticipation of a fight with the Darkling, though she struggles against the desire to attain even more power – and the repercussions that it could have for herself, her relationships, and Ravka.

Though I know that I shouldn’t care for him, the Darkling still holds the honour of being my favourite character in this series. He’s quite an intriguing and complex character: he’s power-hungry, manipulative, and could even be described as evil, though he also has touches of humanity that are difficult to ignore. To my dismay, his presence in this book is minimal, although he captured my full attention whenever he appeared in a scene – especially when showing off his dark new skills.

A new character is introduced in Siege and Storm, and he managed to win me over with ease. Sturmhond is witty and charming, bringing much-needed touches of humour to story. He’s also incredibly well composed, calculating, and adaptive, which are necessary qualities given his agenda.

And then there’s Mal. He started to grow on me towards the end of Shadow and Bone but, sadly, I didn’t like him in this book. He spends too much time feeling insecure in his relationship with Alina. I understand his reasoning – after all, she is the most powerful Grisha and he is a tracker who deserted the army – but after a while, I got tired of reading about it. Hopefully he’ll be more like his end-of-book-one-self in the sequel, since that guy was pretty adorable.

If I haven’t made it clear already, I absolutely loved Siege and Storm. It’s unputdownable and the perfect example of how to write a proper middle installment. I can’t wait to see what happens in Ruin and Rising – until then, I’ll be traipsing about in my very own kefta and trying to befriend guys that look like the Darkling.